Dabbing her forehead with a napkin, Wish Kaminsky nodded to the bartender. “More Tequila.”
The tavern, as lean and long as a bowling alley, swam in shadow. With afternoon waning, most of the patrons were paying their bills and wandering back into the treacherous heat. Above the grimy bar the fans stood motionless.
On her laptop, the Wanted post by Theodora Hendricks flickered.
Damn the old hag. They’d never met, although Wish knew they were distantly related. Second cousins or third, it didn’t matter. What did matter was the reward Theodora offered, a prize large enough to build a troop of bounty hunters determined to find their quarry.
Yesterday Wish had stumbled across the announcement during her daily Google search. She enjoyed reading old news clips about her exploits in the Pacific Northwest, where a mysterious woman had scammed a dozen men. She relished the articles from Miami about how she’d cleaned out the life savings of half the retirees in an assisted living community. The self-congratulatory high fizzled when she came across the electronic version of a Wanted poster that sported a dozen photos of her in various disguises.
Dismissing the memory, she canvassed the bar. A few men were finishing their beers; none glanced her way. She was dressed like one of them, just another hombre in Mexico City.
Were bounty hunters massing on the other side of the Rio Grande? They might begin the hunt in Texas where she was last spotted after a scam in Dallas. All those retired Americans, willing to dole out cash for drugs they believed would allow them to live forever—why were people so stupid? She’d racked up thousands before the authorities caught wind of the deal. Luckily a tip from one of her lovers had provided enough time to board the flight to Mexico City.
And, prior to discovering Theodora’s notice, she’d already booked her next trip to the States. What she hadn’t expected was Theodora’s bounty hunters gumming up the works.
No matter. They wouldn’t make her deviate from the plans she’d spent months devising. The simplicity of this latest scheme was equaled only by its cunning, a perfect combination of diversion and tactic designed to wreak the most damage. Thanks to Theodora’s meddling, the prize was now harder to reach. Not impossible, just harder, and the complications merely focused Wish’s determination.
The swarthy bartender placed the Tequila before her. Downing it, she let her eyes drift shut.
“Excuse me. Are you Rodriquez?”
A young man with a face pockmarked by acne materialized out of the bar’s shadows. Next came his brother, who was just as thin. They looked like twin ferrets with their beady eyes and weak chins. Their hands were in constant motion, tripping up their faded jeans, brushing along their rumpled tee shirts. The shirts smelled like they hadn’t been washed in a week. Ditching her revulsion, she nodded.
“I’m Rodriquez,” she said, switching to the sensuous, feminine voice that drove men to their knees.
Registering surprise, the men stepped back in tandem. She grabbed the closer one by the wrist.
“Before we begin, there’s one thing. If you ever steal from me, you’ll regret it.” She let him go and he scuttled back like a beetle caught in the light. “Are you as good as they say? You’ve come highly recommended.”
“You bet I am,” he said with thin bravado. His Adam’s apple bobbed beneath his sallow skin. “We’d like to get out of Mexico, go home. If you’ve got a job that’ll put us back in the States, we’re taking it.”
“I’m sick of this place,” the second one said.
Beavis and Butthead, she thought, a couple of two-bit cons like so many she’d hired in the past: They were young, greedy, and as bright as a twenty-watt bulb.
“We’ll start in Georgia,” she said, “while I finish the plan.” Sharing information about the bounty hunters sure to track their movements seemed unwise, and she added, “I’ll need your services for a week. Two, tops.”
The first one shrugged. “I like Georgia all right.” Curiosity lit his dull gaze. “What’s after that?”
Anticipation as thick as envy settled over Wish. The sweet taste of victory filled her mouth, a confection she’d season with stealth and rage. When she’d finished—when she’d won—she’d leave nothing but sorrow in her wake. As she always did.
“Ohio,” she replied.
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